Center Grove junior headed to U.S. Junior Amateur

When his putter is working, Sam Jean usually has a good day.

When it’s not, well, the Center Grove High School junior runs into trouble.

Guess what his point of emphasis is this summer?

“Putting, for sure,” Jean said. “I’ve been striking the ball pretty well. When my putting’s been good, it helps me a lot.

“I need to work on that a lot, because if I’m not playing well, that’s what lets me down.”

If his putting is working, Jean expects to be among the top players at the U.S. Junior Amateur in Ooltewah, Tennessee.

Jean qualified for the event two weeks ago with a runner-up finish at a qualifying tournament in Bloomington.

Featuring many of the nation’s top players 18-under, the U.S. Junior Amateur begins Monday and concludes July 23. The top 64 players after the first two-rounds qualify for the final two rounds on the Pete Dye-designed course.

Jean’s primary goal is to make the cut.

“I just want to play as well as I know I can,” he said. “I’d like to be in the final round of 64. That would be really neat.

“I just want to have fun and enjoy it, too, and not put too much stress on it.”

Active on junior tours across the state, Jean typically plans in at least one tournament a week. One of the top players on Center Grove’s boys golf team this past spring, his summer objective is to refine his game for the 2017 season.

Ranked No. 1 heading into last month’s IHSAA State Finals, the Trojans finished third. Jean finished tied for 22nd among individuals with a two-day total of 155.

He views the Junior Amateur as an opportunity to refine his game under big-tournament pressure.

“It will give me some confidence going into next season, and then also (gain) some experience playing with some really good golfers,” Jean said. “I’m just excited for it.”

With the anticipated return of last season’s top three players, senior Ethan Shepherd, junior Noah Gillard and Jean, the Trojans are expected to make another at the team state championship.

Jean is confident the Trojans have the talent and experience to make it happen.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to go,” he said. “I think we’ll have a good chance. It’ll be a lot of fun.”